In a previous post I talked about some of the areas of comparison a startup should look at when selecting a hosting provider. RightScale, a SaaS-based cloud infrastructure management solution provider provides a very nice high-level comparison of AWS, Azure, Google and SoftLayer:

However, I also think it is important to look at market share. Synergy Research Group identifies AWS with 31% of the Cloud Infrastructure Services market, Azure with 11% and Google with 5% in Q2 or 2016.

Market Share

While in Q3 of 2016, Synergy identifies AWS with 45% of the Public IaaS market in comparison to under 20% for Microsoft, Google and IBM combined although they are all growing their market share.

Cloud provider comparison

Taking that comparison a bit further Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service provides some general strengths and cautions for the major cloud providers:

AWS – Pioneered the cloud IaaS market in 2006

• Strengths – It has the largest share of compute capacity in use by paying customers — many times the aggregate size of all other providers in the market. This has enabled it to attract an ecosystem of open-source tools, along with more than a thousand technology partners that have licensed and packaged their software to run on AWS, have integrated their software with AWS capabilities, or deliver add-on services. It continues to rapidly expand its service offerings and to offer higher-level solutions. It retains a multiyear competitive advantage over all its competitors, and thus is the common reference point for competitive benchmarking.
• Cautions – easy to get started with AWS, however optimal use requires expertise. A customer’s best practices may become outdated as better or more cost-effective capabilities are introduced.

Azure – Launched Gartner’s definition of Azure Infrastructure Services into GA in April 2013

• Strengths – Microsoft has been rapidly rolling out new features and services, including differentiated capabilities. It has a vision of infrastructure and platform services that are not only leading stand-alone offerings, but also seamlessly extend and interoperate with on-premises Microsoft infrastructure. Microsoft is also becoming more open and less reliant upon its Windows franchise, and Azure’s support for Linux and other open-source technologies is improving quickly. Azure is growing quickly, and is in second place for market share. Microsoft has pledged to maintain AWS-comparable basic cloud IaaS pricing for the general public. Although Azure is neither as feature-rich nor mature as AWS, many organizations can now consider it “good enough,”
• Cautions – While Microsoft has met its promised time frames for introducing critical features that help Azure fulfill enterprise needs for security, availability, performance, networking flexibility and user management, not all such functionality is implemented with the level of completeness, ease of use or API enablement that is desired by enterprise customers. These difficulties are exacerbated by disorganized, incomplete and sometimes out-of-date documentation, as well as a support organization that is not always capable of solving complex implementation challenges, a limited number of Azure experts outside of Microsoft (whether consultants or potential employees) and few options for Azure training. Microsoft is still in the process of building out its Azure ecosystem. It has been aggressively recruiting managed service and professional services partners, but many of these partners lack extensive experience with the Azure platform, which can compromise the quality of the solutions they deliver to customers.

Google – Entered cloud IaaS market with Google Compute Engine launch into GA in December 2013

• Strengths – Google’s strategy for GCP centers on the concept of allowing other organizations to “run like Google” by exposing Google’s internal technology capabilities as services that other companies can purchase. Google is leveraging its expertise and experience with big data in its own consumer business in order to build product strength in technologies such as analytics and machine learning. Many GCP customers have other primary cloud IaaS providers, but choose GCP for projects that are especially well-suited to the platform’s capabilities.
• Cautions – GCP has a solid and well-implemented core of fundamental IaaS and PaaS capabilities, but its feature set and scope of services are not as broad as that of the market leaders. It is still missing key capabilities that are important to established organizations (along with missing some capabilities that are important to startups). Although it has been steadily releasing significant new capabilities, the general feature release velocity for GCP has not been as fast as necessary to become a leader in this highly competitive market. Google is still in the rudimentary stages of learning to engage with enterprise and midmarket customers, especially those that are not technology-centric businesses. Over the course of 2015, Google made only incremental GCP-related progress in this area. Despite a change in leadership at the beginning of 2016, we believe that there is still insufficient forward movement in service features, sales, marketing, globalization and partner ecosystem to make Google broadly attractive as a strategic cloud IaaS provider in 2016.

Gartner does recognize Digital Ocean, Linode, 1&1, ElasticHosts and others that startups typically use for 1 or 2 virtual machines, but does not include them in their Magic Quadrant as Gartner’s clients generally have needs well beyond what these primarily low-cost hosting providers fulfill.

As I’ve said before, the bottom line is that the choice of a cloud provider needs to be looked at through the lens of the individual organization. Many factors need to be considered and the provider that is right for one startup may not be the best choice for another. From a high-level perspective AWS certainly has market share, a head start and is feature rich. Azure is working hard to catch-up, but has a long way to go. Certainly a great choice if you are run mainly MS products. Google has a long road ahead of it, but does have some very compelling specialized products that should be considered, possibly in a mixed cloud environment.